It doesn’t shock Monifa Sewell that her 9-year-old son, Malachi, would tip over the stove while climbing on it to reach the top of the refrigerator, scalding himself with a pot of water across his lower back and buttocks.
“With Malachi, anything is possible,” she said, as her son was getting a follow-up examination at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital.
The burn center and its physicians and caregivers, the Joseph M. Still Burn Centers Inc., are using Burn Awareness Week to urge parents to turn down the thermostat on water heaters and be mindful of things such as cigarette lighters that can lead to bad burns.
In 2007, fire and burns accounted for 145 deaths in Georgia, including five in children 4 and younger and 15 in those 19 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Burns are the fourth-leading cause of hospitalization in children younger than 1 year old and the eighth-leading cause in those age 4 and younger, according to CDC data. About 75 percent of the burns in children are from scalding, usually from a seemingly innocuous source, said Beretta Craft-Coffman, a physician assistant for the center’s medical group.
“The faucet is one of the biggest culprits,” she said. Children’s skin is thin, so a temperature that an adult can withstand could scald a child and cause a deeper injury. That’s why the burn center and its medical group say a home’s water heater should be set at no more than 120 degrees.
“I would be willing to bet you most hot water heaters are set at a higher temperature than 120 degrees,” Craft-Coffman said. “At 140 degrees, you can sustain a burn in five seconds. You can save these children from having scald injuries by just adjusting your hot water heater.”
Parents who smoke should keep close track of lighters, she said.
“The cigarette lighter is extremely dangerous in the hands of a child,” Craft-Coffman said. “And if they think those lighters are childproof, they are wrong.”
A child the age of Malachi can learn to adjust well to a burn, but if there is extensive scarring, that can be a problem later when skin can’t stretch to accommodate growth, she said.
“It’s lifelong” for some children, Craft-Coffman said. Just as children are at higher risk because of thinner skin, so too are older people for the same reasons, she said.
“The elderly are very similar,” Craft-Coffman said, so residents with seniors in the home should take the same scald precautions.